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NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: Kansas - Maryland Preview

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas will be halfway to a national title with a win tonight against Maryland, but the bad news is if I could pick a (non all star) team designed to take down the 2016 Kansas Jayhawks, it would look a lot like the 2016 Maryland Terrapins. Maryland features a slashing point guard who loves to break down the defense and either dump it off to a big man, get to the free throw line, or score himself. Maryland has the inside presence to frustrate Kansas. Maryland has two guys who can reasonably slow down Perry Ellis. And Maryland is just good enough at shooting from deep to make things interesting if they get hot.

Offensively, Maryland finished just 7th in the Big 10. That's the good news. The bad news is a lot of that is due to their turnover percentage, which was 18.8 percent in league play and is at 19 percent overall. Unfortunately, Kansas really doesn't turn teams over and can't be expected to pick up those extra free possessions tonight.

Also, Maryland attempts quite a few threes on the season, roughly 38 percent of their field goals, but I think that is a function of how the Big 10 was this year, as the Terps were just 6th in the league in threes attempted (although they did attempt quite a few in their first two games of the NCAA tournament). One of the best things about Maryland offensively from a Kansas point of view is their lack of offensive rebounding. If they have an off shooting night it could be a lot of one and done possessions for Maryland, or they could get frustrated and attempt to attack the offensive glass, which would lead to some KU transition opportunities.

Defensively, Maryland is a pretty big team, but in terms of big men in the middle it is really just Diamond Stone at 6-11 and Damonte Dodd, also at 6-11. The worrying part of the Terps on that end of the floor is Jake Layman at 6-9 and Robert Carter Jr at 6-9 both have the size and speed to stick with Perry Ellis, so Bill Self will have to get a bit creative with how he gets Perry some looks. The good news is whichever guy doesn't guard Perry is going to have to guard Wayne Selden, and while Wayne isn't the greatest ballhandler in the world, he is certainly quick enough to get past one of those two and get some open looks.

Players to Watch

Melo Trimble doesn't have the highest usage rate on the Terps, but make no mistake, he makes their offense go. Diamond Stone gets most of his baskets off work created by Trimble, Robert Carter Jr and Jake Layman get a lot of pick and pop stuff from Trimble as well. The good news is Trimble shoots just under 32 percent from three (and was under 30 percent in Big 10 play), so the Jayhawks can dare him to shoot a bit and hope he shoots the Terps out of the game.

Trimble loves to get to the free throw line, has drawn 5 fouls per 40 minutes this year, and is 150-171 from the line. Keeping a guy off the line is rarely a huge factor in a game plan, but with Trimble it certainly is. The good news is Trimble will likely be guarding Frank Mason, and Mason also draws a lot of fouls, so if Kansas can get Trimble into foul trouble things will be looking good indeed.

Jake Layman stands 6-9 and is shooting 41 percent from three on 139 attempts. While he is not only a jump shooter, he is mostly a jump shooter, so he is probably a good candidate to have Wayne Selden follow him around and shadow him. Defensively, it looks like Layman will be on Selden, although I think he's a candidate to grab Perry duty seeing as he is Maryland's best defender.

Robert Carter Jr shoots 63 percent from two and 33 percent from three (though on just 75 attempts) and will be a really tough matchup for (I assume) Perry on both ends of the floor. He isn't as good of a defender as Layman but can get out and guard people, so it might be a bit of a quiet game from Perry. He is also Maryland's best defensive rebounder so if Kansas can get him out of the game maybe they can crash the glass a bit.

The Pick

These teams match up so well and so interestingly. It's the type of game I would love to play in January with no real consequences for losing. I think because of the size differences in personnel we will see both teams throwing some junk defenses and other weird stuff at the other, and I think it will be a bit of a game of runs as each team adjusts to the other and vice versa.

The key obviously is Trimble. If he shoots well from three (and he really only has once since January so you know it's coming) Maryland will be tough to beat. If he doesn't, and Kansas can keep him outside the lane, the Jayhawks will have a great chance. Kansas also needs to play defense about as well as they did against Connecticut. I could see this going either way, but Maryland has the size advantage, they have multiple NBA players, and they have the right style both physically and statistically to take down the Jayhawks. I think they do so tonight, as I am taking Maryland to win 76-73.